Alon Peltz, MD MBA MHS  Department of Population Medicine Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute

Characteristics of Families Who May Lose SNAP Benefits Interview with:

Alon Peltz, MD MBA MHS  Department of Population Medicine Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute

Dr. Peltz

Alon Peltz, MD MBA MHS 
Department of Population Medicine
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute What is the background for this study?

Response: Thank you for taking an interest in our study. This study represented a collaboration between investigators from Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine.

SNAP is an important U.S. federal aid program that serves nearly 40 million persons annually with well-established health, nutrition, and financial benefits. Families can be eligible for the SNAP program under “federal” rules or “categorical eligibility” rules that extend SNAP support to otherwise ineligible families who receive benefits under certain social assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new SNAP policies that would limit qualifications via the categorical eligibility route. Although these new policies have not been finalized, it is estimated that 1 in 10 U.S. families currently participating in SNAP may lose their benefits.

We wanted to investigate the potential ramifications of these changes to help inform policymakers of the vulnerabilities of the families who receive SNAP benefits and may be at risk for disenrollment if the proposed policies are implemented. What are the main findings? What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: We found that families receiving SNAP under categorical eligibility programs, despite slightly higher incomes compared with all other SNAP participants, have substantial health, nutrition, and financial needs.

These proposed changes to SNAP raise concerns for adverse effects on health, nutrition, and ability to pay for health care for those families who may be impacted. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: In the event that the proposed SNAP policies are enacted it will be important to monitor for any adverse effects on the health and financial wellbeing of those families who are impacted. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We used national health survey data to best approximate the needs of categorically eligible SNAP participants, however the database was not specific to SNAP enrollment, and so we had to develop a model to estimate, as best we could, each family’s SNAP enrollment type based on their income, household composition, and other factors. We hope follow-up studies, with access to more robust SNAP enrollment data, will help shed additional light on this important issue.


Peltz A, Galbraith AA, Rogers S, Walsh R, Garg A. Socioeconomic and Health Characteristics of Families at Risk for Losing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits. JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 09, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.7152




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Last Updated on March 9, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD